Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner June 12, 2019
Activist, educator and journalist Rosemary Ganley in downtown Vancouver is dressed as a character from Margaret Atwood's “The Handmaid's Tale.” Ganley was in Vancouver to attend the Women Deliver global conference. Now in her 80s, Ganley has followed the women's movement for decades, and has no plans to slow down even if "it seems more like a young woman's game these days." JESSE WINTER/THE CANADIAN PRESS
In the beautiful city of Vancouver, between the mountains and the sea, I was in its white-sailed Conference Centre, bright with colour, bubbling and alive, for four days in early June as women of all ages and hues, in saris, African khangas, jeans, hijabs and business suits, from 130 nations, rallied around one theme: the global condition of girls and women, 52 per cent of the world's population.
There was urgency. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the massive progress for many women in health, education, freedom and political participation over the past 25 years, we are seeing the rise once again of mean, misogynistic men to leadership, perhaps the worst being U.S President Donald Trump, but also in Brazil, Russia, the Philippines and China. They have a lot in common, most menacingly the rollback of democracy, but a central tenet among them all is the attempted control of women and of women's sexuality. Women and girls are, by universal agreement backed up by statistics, second-class everywhere: In institutions, in faith communities, in science and politics and general culture.
"In no country in the world," says Phumzile Mlambo of the United Nations, "has gender equity been achieved."
I think of this reality often, as a privileged, older, educated, healthy, white, Canadian settler. Locating oneself is a start. Educating oneself is next. Finding good sources, human, and via technology. Joining honest, action-and-then-reflection movements. Taking the position of an advocate for change, keeping in mind the most excluded, the most suffering. Have a global outlook. This is one indivisible small planet. My father, enlightened and humble, told us, "Always advocate for someone you are not."
So join the worldwide women's movement, I decided many yea,rs ago. Keep meeting and learning and reading and speaking up. And finding surprise and joy, too. That all brought me to the Women Deliver conference last week. Eight thousand people, mostly women. Scores of workshops, films, plenaries, talks by world leaders. Just for one example, I met TaranaBurke, founder of the MeToo movement.
Before leaving home, I had the notion to have a handmaid's outfit made. Partly, it was a tribute to the prophetic Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, who, in 1985, discerned the real possibility that frightened societies might try to turn back progress for women. Partly I wanted to have something concrete with which to start a conversation (just as my button "Catholic Feminist for Choice" opens animated dialogue). Enter new friend Cathy Ogrodnik, who said,"Sure, I'll do one up. You can just donate to Crossroads Shelter." Friend Sandi Burri said, "You just take it and go. I'll make the donation." That's called "sisterhood," well-known around the world.
We had meaningful fun in Vancouver with that outfit, many trying it on. The message was quickly understood by North Americans, since "The Handmaid's Tale" on TV is entering its third season. Not so resonant with women from the global south. Anyway, that gig led to the reporter and photographer in Vancouver asking me to pose on Burrard Street in front of a church, as passersby grinned in recognition. Some of them took pictures of me and the photographer. Hence my picture and quotes on the front page of the Toronto Star on June 7.
I gave the present government a B-plus when asked. But on more reflection, the vast amount of money pledged for women's and children's health by our prime minister as he showed his profound grasp of the status of women, and the truly brilliant work of Minister of Gender Equality Maryam Monsef all make me rate this national leadership we have right now as A-plus-plus.